Olga Shifrin vs. Kübler-Ross

by marinashifrin

“The worst part of going through labor is you’re not allowed to smoke a celebratory cigarette in the emergency room,” according to my mother. My mom is a certifiable badass.

Growing up with a tough mother means growing up with tough love, this can complicate a mother-daughter relationship.


My mom is tall, quiet and reserved. To say I’m the opposite would be like saying the dollar dumplings from China Town are just kinda good. We’re night and 6 a.m.

I remember my mom looking at me and shaking her head, denying I was her kid. “Whose are you?” She’d ask whenever I got into my latest shenanigans.

Now, I was not a troublemaker as an eight year old, but I did find myself in strange situations; getting my head trapped in a rolly chair, embedding a magnet up my nose and let’s not forget the goat incident of 1989.

I guess I wasn’t as much of a troublemaker, as I was a complete dumbass. That’s why no one was shocked at my latest stunt.


Most kids pick up cool looking rocks, leaves or coins at the park; I picked up a baby squirrel, a very sick baby squirrel. Spoiler Alert: My mother was not happy about this latest addition to the family.

I would have turned to my dad for help but just like braiding hair, using the VCR and grocery shopping; nursing baby squirrels back to life was not on my father’s “Things I Am Good At” list.


“PLEAASSSSSEEEE!?” I desperately squealed, “We need to save squirrely.”

Editors Note: Yes, the squirrel’s name was squirrely — my imagination, like my breasts, didn’t develop until 5 years later.

My mother’s toughness was no match for my annoying-ness. In a matter hours Olga Shifrin surprised everyone, including herself, with how quickly her motherly instincts kicked in.

In only three days the squirrel had gotten healthier and we released it back into “the wild” a.k.a the suburbs of North Chicago.

This story was supposed to end after I explained how although my mother had trouble expressing her love to me growing up, she still had those maternal instincts deep inside. You’d smile and think that was nice, but I like her other posts better.

If you want that warm and fuzzy feeling, google cute animalz or something asinine like that, if you want the truth keep reading.


The squirrel died. Yeah, I know. I was surprised too, when I FOUND OUT FIFTEEN YEARS LATER. “The squirrel that died in an adidas box?” Asked my mom when I broached the topic last Wednesday. Olga can be pretty blunt when you aren’t eight.

Yeah, it’s your archetypical childhood story: kid has pet, pet dies, mom covers up death, kid grows up blissfully unaware until running out of things to blog about resorting to childhood memories, but my mother is not your archetypical mother.

Death sucks, losing a pet sucks, but losing a parent is life shattering.

At age 15, my mom returned from camp to find her mother had passed away during the summer. No one bothered telling her because they “didn’t want to ruin her break.” Uh, what Russia?

The person my mother loved, the person she needed, disappeared in one summer. Her mother wasn’t there to teach her about boys, how to wear her hair or makeup. Her mother wasn’t there to see her get married or have a baby girl.


Maybe Olga was a little tough on me as a child, maybe she didn’t put pink bows in my hair or counsel me through break-ups.

But when the possibility of death breezed into my life in the form of rabid baby squirrel, she stepped in. She hid me from the hurt and pain associated with loss, absorbing the five stages grief so I never had to. My mother protected me the best way she knew how; letting me grow up blissfully unaware until running out of things to blog about.

My mom has taught me a lot of things with tough love, but most of all, she taught me love is tough.